Supermarket Threatens To Fire Slowest Cashier, Destroys Brand Image

Steve and his wife were checking out at the supermarket when they noticed something odd about the cashier packing his bags. She was ramming all his groceries like she was trying to repair a levy in a flood.

Then he looked at her face. She looked tired, ragged, and distraught. He looked around the rest of the checkout area. All the other cashiers looked similarly haggard, and were stuffing groceries just as fast.

Steve asked her to slow down, worried that she would break his eggs. With grim resolve, she shook her head no. Steve asked again. Again, no. Management had announced that the slowest cashier would be fired.

Both he and his wife were filled with “nauseating disgust,” said Steve. “Here I am buying free range eggs,” considered by some to be a more progressive and socio-economically conscious purchasing decision, “from a company that treats its workers like this.”

Perhaps if the supermarket wants to motivate its employees, they should fire whoever came up with the “mush! mush!” idea and redistribute their salary evenly amongst the cashiers.

When it comes to buyer perception these days, the ends do not justify the means even in the pursuit of customer service, in this case, faster bagging. If in the name of serving your customers better you treat your employees like garbage, and customers find out, they will punish you for it. How you get there is just as important as where you get to.

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  1. adrew says:

    So … which grocery store?

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      No full names, no dates, no locations, no store names, nothing verifiable or actionable. The store may have been pulled out of this website’s ass.

      This is supposed to entice us to subscribe to Consumer Reports?

    • Bagumpity says:

      I believe the store is “Redacted Foods”

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      Oh, and also, they didn’t provide the original letter. And I don’t understand how a store would even measure this. Does the computer measure the length of time from the first item to the last item scanned per customer, then divide by the number of items? What if there’s lots of produce that needs to be weighed? What if the cashier is under 21 and needs someone older to scan the item (depending on state law/company policy)?

      More reasons why either this article, Steve, or the cashier (seriously, if I’m getting paid seven bucks an hour, I’m not listening to customers tell me how to do my job when they refuse to help bag their own stuff like a normal human being) is bullshitting.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        Almost every grocery store does an items per minute calculation. In some I’ve shopped in, they have the cashier goals right on the wall. And relatives and friends who have worked for grocery stores have told me that every cashier is expected to hit a certain items per minute. They might not get fired that day if they are the slowest, but if someone’s getting fired, that’s who it’s gonna be.

        They assume that everyone has an order where they have to stop once in a while, like needing a price check or an under 21 situation like you describe. But for the manager to lay it out like he apparently did to this team, that someone’s getting immediately fired if they’re the slowest is harsher than most.

      • bonzombiekitty says:

        Grocery stores do keep track of how many items you ring up per minute when you are signed into the machine. I used to have a HORRENDOUS IPM when I was a cashier even though I was really, really fast – because I would leave myself signed onto the machine even if I wasn’t doing anything – it made it faster to take care of customers when they would show up.

        • sopmodm14 says:

          still pretty absurd

          managers should be fired b/c they never register, so their IPM is near zero

          and if their staff is getting low numbers, either the manager is not having enough sales or their staff is overburdened

        • OnePumpChump says:

          That just means the system for recording your items per minute was shit. There’s no reason it couldn’t look solely at the number of separate orders, and the rate of scanning from the first to last item.

      • damageddude says:

        I worked as a supermarket cashier in the 80s. Even then the computer could track how many items per minute you scanned and how much per hour you took in. When we were bored we would have races to see who could scan the fastest. Customers usually packed their own bags which was nice. And express was always slower because of the increased transactions.

      • Smultronstallet says:

        I work as a checker in a grocery store part-time. There is a function on my register that allows me to see how many items I scan per minute. Also, there are two cameras pointed at my lane, so it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out who is slowest. Thankfully, at my store, we have baggers – at least most of the time.

    • rondalescott says:

      Yeah, I don’t believe this article. No verifiable details = BS fake article. Ben, you would have been better off forwarding this to everyone in your email contact list and asking them to do the same.

      Not your best work.

    • Rocket says:

      Definitely Super Club.

    • samchristian says:

      exactly. what is the point of this website if the names of the places guilty are conveniently left out?

  2. danmac says:

    I really hope the slowest bagger is someone with a disability. Someone with a disability who also happens to be litigious.

  3. ngoandy says:

    Why no mention of which supermarket?

    • danmac says:

      I’m guessing that this isn’t “official” company policy, and that said company may get lawyers involved if they believe their name is being unfairly slandered.

      • DanRydell says:

        That has never prevented Consumerist from making libelous or potentially libelous statements before (not that it would be libelous in this case).

  4. prezuiwf says:

    Well… which supermarket was it?

  5. stock2mal says:

    Thanks for letting us know the name of the supermarket so we can avoid it. What is the point of articles like these?

  6. Alvis says:

    Oh noes! No the free-range eggs! They’re more emotionally in-tune than mass-market eggs and can sense when they’re being abused.

    • stock2mal says:

      You are an idiot.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        His comment about socio-economics was somewhat idiotic.

        • onehand_oneheart says:

          Both he and his wife were filled with “nauseating disgust,” said Steve. “Here I am buying free range eggs,” considered by some to be a more progressive and socio-economically conscious purchasing decision, “from a company that treats its workers like this.”

          The way this is written, it looks like the comment on free-range eggs was written by Consumerist and not the customer. Note the quotation marks.

        • danmac says:

          True, but I appreciate the dichotomy he was trying to show: namely, that shopping at a store that treats its workers like garbage undermines his attempt to be a socially conscious consumer.

      • Marshmelly says:

        how is he an idiot? It was funny…but I guess you’re on of the sensitive “free-range egg” buyers and can’t handle the joke.

        • stock2mal says:

          I don’t understand how abusing chickens (or any animal) for profit is a joke, but that’s just me.

          • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

            There’s a difference between abusing chickens and abusing eggs.

            Also, humor at the expense of misery is a time-honored tradition.

            “Bring out your dead…”

          • Thespian says:

            Jesus Christ, dude, lighten the hell up.

          • Boston Burnsy says:

            No one is suggesting animal abuse – but you certainly sound you like should have YOUR chicken choked. And soon.

        • UnbelieverDjak says:

          I buy free range – at the wife’s behest, but still. And yeah, I thought it was funny.

        • Good Cop Baby Cop says:

          What *is* the joke?

          • OnePumpChump says:

            I THINK he’s suggesting that the eggs get to roam around free.

            That’s the only thing that makes this make sense to me, but it doesn’t make it any less moronic.

    • chipslave says:

      I thought it was funny.

  7. fredbiscotti says:

    Sounds like the cashiers need a union.

    • Tim says:

      SOCIALIZMS! Unions destroy ‘Murka!

      In all reality, though, it’s extremely pretty tough to unionize nowadays, what with the negative view most Americans have of unions. Plus, it’s even harder in low-skill industries, where scabbing is pretty easy. Combine that with the hatred of unions and high unemployment, and an employer would have a pretty easy time finding scabs if need be.

      • veritybrown says:

        Americans have a low opinion of unions because unions have become just as corrupt and greedy as big business. Union bigwigs make overinflated salaries, just like CEOs. My dad was a steelworker and a staunch union man all his life, but the mill shut down just a couple of years after he retired, and he freely admitted that the union had broken the company with their greedy demands.

        When unions first came into existence, they were vital. Some type of collective bargaining power is still vital. But today’s unions have become just another part of the problem for the working poor.

        • Doubts42 says:

          +1

        • Maximus Pectoralis says:

          +2. Unions only really exist now in areas that are impossible to offshore, like construction and government work. Things that really must be done locally. Incidentally I recall an incident a couple of years ago about a construction project here in NJ. I don’t remember what the project was, but they brought in the entire construction crew from Kentucky. It was more cost-effective to bring in an entire crew from out-of-state, including providing housing for them, than it was to pay the unions.

          And then there’s the whole “it takes 7 foremen and 1 worker to fill a pothole” situation. One person I know (union carpenter) would supposedly nail up one 4×8 panel, then go behind the panel and sleep for the day. That’s a hard day’s work for an honest living…

    • CBenji says:

      Are you kidding? Not in this tea bag era. Unions don’t stand a chance.

      • Etoiles says:

        Stop & Shop and I assume also Giant (which is the same store, just in a different region) have unionized employees. *shrug*

        • exit322 says:

          I believe Kroger does as well. At least, it did when I was a bagger making $5.25 an hour and paying $4.03 a week to the union.

          No, I didn’t work more than 40 hours a week to pay the union to make up the huge split between minimum wage and what I was making ($5.15 at the time).

          • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

            So, what did you do in the union to fight for higher wages? (Or, conversely, what steps did you take to deunionize?)

            Unions aren’t supposed to be something that happens to you. You’re supposed to get involved. People got complacent and then unions became corrupt and shitty, and now here we are.

            • exit322 says:

              I quit and worked my college summers at a franchised Wendy’s that (A) paid me $2.25 more an hour and (B) didn’t waste my money with a union.

              • MrEvil says:

                Yes, but did you get company paid medical/dental/vision, time and a half for over 8 hours in a day, double time for federal holidays, and paid vacation even though you’re part time? I used to be a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers and the benefits were WELL worth the $5/wk I was paying in dues. It took me fucking 10 years to get a job with comparable benefits.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I guess this means this was not at a Safeway, which has a union.

      That narrows down 15% of the country’s groceries. Now to figure out the rest.

    • DanRydell says:

      No, they don’t. They need someone with the common sense to suggest that instead of firing the slowest person, the store should set a goal and require that everyone maintain that goal speed. That way no one has to get fired. Someone who drops below the goal doesn’t even need to be fired, they could be assigned a different job.

      • amgriffin says:

        With a manager this effed up, do you really think they are going to listen to “common sense”? Do you really believe that someone this misguided is going to say “Well, gee. You’ve got a great point and I was totally wrong”. Or will the manager perceive the common sense employee to be the best cashier to axe? If you think they will listen then you’ve never suffered under a bad manager.

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        Are you daft? This is exactly the type of situation that calls for a section of the workforce to be unionized. They are being driven like cattle to prevent the loss of their job. No matter how fast they all bag groceries, one of the WILL be fired.

      • saltyoak says:

        common sense does not exist especially if it is the way of the bottom line

      • Firethorn says:

        The only thought I had was that perhaps management was told by higher management that they had too many cashiers and had to lay off one. I’d consider laying off the slowest to be the best option, if I was a manager.

        Still, I think I’d initially try to do it through attrition, promotion in-house, whatever. If I’m told I don’t have that much time(or my employees are actually that static), I’d just lay off the slowest – just the standard 2 week warning or whatever.

        Why? This kind of behavior leads to extra breakage, rushed service, and I’m probably not actually going to get the slowest on average.

    • LINIStittles says:

      They don’t need a union, they need better managers. Managers that realize that positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative reinforcement.

      • captadam says:

        Crappy management begets unions.

        In an ideal world, unions wouldn’t be needed. But managers are humans, and humans suck, so …

      • magus_melchior says:

        The thing is, the smart managers all go for better-paying jobs than a dead end salary managing a supermarket.

        Because the taskmasters here are largely idiots who would rather inflate their own salary at the expense of their workers, I tend to lean towards unionizing low-end retail (with the caveat that it shouldn’t be a chapter of a national union).

    • dg says:

      No, they don’t need a union. They need to realize that they are there to perform a job, and that if they’re not performing the job properly that they’ll be replaced. I’d be willing to bet that Management got pushed to this point by employees who were chit-chatting too much, not paying attention to customers, or working sluggishly. Perhaps the store doesn’t have more money to throw at additional labor – especially when the existing labor isn’t working up to snuff.

      If they’re all working like slugs, then it doesn’t really matter who gets fired. You tell everyone – you want to keep your jobs? Get up to speed, the slowest one this month is getting fired. Then they are masters of their own destiny.

      The ones that get it – stay. The ones that don’t – you get rid of. And the rest realize that they can be canned to so they keep working. Once the deadweight is gone, you can replace it with a new worker who you can train to have good habits from the get-go.

      I’ve worked retail grocery – you only make money AT THE REGISTER. No where else. So the faster you get the customers out of the store, the happier everyone is. Customers hate standing in line while cashiers take their own sweet time, and often abandon carts if they’re in line too long. It’s a careful balance between too much labor, and enough to keep costs in line while keeping customers happy. If you have to shitcan a few cashiers to get the rest into line – sometimes that’s what you have to do.

      And for the record, if I ran a grocery store and the employees wanted to unionize – I’d do everything I could to prevent it. And if they did – I’d close the damn store, and move it somewhere else. As soon as you get a Union in somewhere, it’s the beginning of the end.

  8. qwickone says:

    Did they complain to management? They definitely should. Let them know that they don’t appreciate how they treat their employees and that they won’t continue shopping there if it doesn’t change.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      After which said manager fires their cashier, since the employees aren’t supposed to discuss their gripes with the customers.

      • Rena says:

        So you come back in the next day and make your statement, refusing to state who you are or who served you, ideally dressed quite differently just on the off chance they recognize you.

    • borgia says:

      In almost all layoffs it is the lowest performers that get fired. The only difference here is that the workers have had forwarning of the metric by which they will be judged and have true control over their destiny. This is hard but that is the way all jobs work. This even gives a low performer who may know they will end up on the bottom more time to look for a job. Rather than a “suprise” layoff.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Pretious statement regarding being socio-economically conscious aside, this guy is right on.

    I would be disgusted, too, and would have informed the manager I was taking my business elsewhere. In fact, I’m disgusted by association.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Yeah, I found his comment about free-range eggs to be idiotic.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        I think his point is that he’s trying to be a conscientious shopper. I buy free range eggs, too. If that makes me pretentious, I guess I can live with that.

        • danmac says:

          I agree with this sentiment…and I don’t believe that it was the OP’s intention to sound pretentious; he was merely pointing out the irony of trying to be a socially conscious shopper at a store where the workers are mistreated.

    • chipslave says:

      He should have added that he loaded his groceries into a prius and it would have been even more pretentious :)

    • outis says:

      It should be pointed out that the soci-economic preachiness appears to be the author’s editorialzing and not an actual quote from the consumer.

  10. Griking says:

    I’m sure that the company isn’t doing this just because it likes twisted games. They probably need to let someone go because of budget constraints and decided that it should be the least productive person. It sounds fair to me.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Would the best strategy, then, be to observe them without telling them of the ultimatum? As it stands they are testing the limits of their bagging, not their efficicency on a normal day.

    • ryber says:

      So cramming the most amount of groceries into a customer’s bags, even when they’ve EXPLICITLY ASKED THE CASHIER TO SLOW DOWN, makes for the most productivity?

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      This is, of course, assuming the only measure of a good cashier is speed (already kind of a goofy idea – you’re fast but you bruise everyone’s fruits and vegetables and your till is off ten bucks every shift, so you get a raise?).

      But if you don’t know who your least productive person is already, then you’re either a shitty manager or your employees are more or less equal in ability. This is the same reason I don’t understand why companies bother performing drug tests on people they’ve already hired.

      They should just do what most high-turnover companies do and just wait for someone to quit, then don’t hire for that position.

      • All Work and Low Pay says:

        Well the real question ends up being ‘how many people leave the store due to high-line volume.’ I know I’ve walked away from a purchase due to ridiculous lines and time constraints. If that’s the issue the management believes it has, and they feel they may be losing business, then the IBM value of a worker makes sense. More likely is that the eco-friendly products costs more money, and since American consumers historically are not willing to pay more for the same quality of competitor products, the cost now has to trickle into labor. It just seems like they are trying to find a way to let go of a worker that will cite inability to complete job responsibilities. If they cite this, no unemployment eligability.

    • runswithscissors says:

      STUNNED, I say, I am STUNNED to see you side with the corporation no matter what.

      Again.

      As you always do.

  11. minjche says:

    While I don’t think it’s my place to tell a manager how to run their store, I would certainly ask to speak with one and explain my disagreement with such a policy.

    This looks to me like a manager who is concerned with numbers and not with people.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Comments such as yours provide insight into why business sucks. There is indeed this opinion, rarely expressed, that we do not have the “right” to comment, let alone seek redress, concerning other’s poor performance or malfeasance. It’s paternalism without rewards, only punishments.

      • minjche says:

        It’s not my store, I’m not a shareholder in the company (if it’s publicly held), and it’s not a democratic system. My only recourse is the dollar vote.

        • captadam says:

          Right. But when you decide to take your business elsewhere, you can tell the manager why you have decided to do so.

          • minjche says:

            That’s absolutely correct. I’m just saying that the manager still has the decision of whether to listen to or ignore my statement, and I don’t have any power over that.

          • minjche says:

            Addendum to my previous comment:

            I don’t have any “power” over that, but in practice, a customer usually has “influence” over it.

  12. Grogey says:

    Do we know which store this was so the company can be alerted and tell the stupid manager or themselves to cut it out?

    Its one thing to want your cashiers to do a fast job but there’s a line between good and damaging and threatening to fire people is not a good motivator in fact it hurts them. Trust me I know my current boss and company says it or hints to it all the time. Makes me an unhappy employee and I am not even in retail.

  13. smartmuffin says:

    You know what? Then the guy is welcome to shop elsewhere. My guess, based on no scientifically collected evidence whatsoever, is that more people care about getting out of the supermarket quickly than care about how tired the cashier is or that their precious free range eggs weren’t being given the love and affection they deserve. Hell, the manager probably received a complaint about a slow cashier that led to this in the first place.

    If the cashiers don’t like it, they’re welcome to quit as well. But given how fast she was packing his groceries, seems like she’d still rather have the job than not.

    • PSUSkier says:

      Yeah, but there are different ways to deal with a situation. I have management experience and you know how to get the best performance out of your workers? Positive reinforcement. Coaching. Working 1-on-1 with the employees. If in fact the manager is responding to someone’s complaint that a cashier was working too slow, it just shows that that person himself should be either demoted or shitcanned because he has no earthly idea how to function as a manager. You don’t dangle negative consequences over your employees head to get better customer service.

      • smartmuffin says:

        Yeah, obviously I’m not saying this manager is 100% in the right here. But “grocery store manager isn’t too great at his job” isn’t exactly news, is it? I guess it’s a slow Friday or something…

        Anyway, if, in fact, his goal was to improve checkout *speed* it seems like it’s working great, given that this cashier was scanning items very quickly. Whether or not the increase in speed is a net benefit when accompanied by a decrease in service is a separate issue for this particular supermarket to consider. in any case, the “oh no my eggs” guy probably would have been a lot better off speaking to a local manager than simply whining about it on the Internet…

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        I’m gonna guess this manager was told to cut his staff by one from higher up the food chain. Instead of quietly reviewing past performance (and trust me, every grocery store logs items-per-minute) and making his decision that way, he thought he’d used this to put the fear of god into all of them. He’s an idiot.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Yes, jobs are so plentiful these days…even relatively low wage ones.

      What you said is true, but the truth is that bad management practices do not make for an improved customer experience. Cashiers who rush in bagging will break items, overfill bags and perhaps cause tears and spills in the parking lot. They may be more irritable or make more mistakes. This approach is just an example of sub optimization and probably doesn’t do anything to solve the real problem the manager wanted to fix.

    • danmac says:

      I’d rather patronize a business where the staff are happy and efficient than one where they are neurotic and harried. If you’re ever on the west coast, try going to an In-N-Out burger – they’re a fast food place where the employees are paid well, have a chance for advancement, benefits, etc. Not coincidentally, the atmosphere at this establishment is light, happy, quick, efficient, and polite.

      • smartmuffin says:

        Actually, I can’t stand going to In-N-Out. The food is delicious but the place is always too damn crowded and a complete zoo. They definitley need more locations or something. Meanwhile there’s a local Dairy Queen where I’ve never actually seen them have any customers other than me. Love that place.

    • GMFish says:

      more people care about getting out of the supermarket quickly than care about how tired the cashier is or that their precious free range eggs weren’t being given the love and affection they deserve

      Read the article! Read the description! This is not an instance where the OP was complaining that the checkout people were acting efficiently. This is an instance where the checkout people were being inefficient. They were acting so fast that the products the OP was buying were being harmed.

      My guess is that 100% of people would wait an extra 60 seconds to avoid having their eggs broke, their bananas bruised, and their bread mushed.

  14. Judah says:

    Which store?

  15. Etoiles says:

    In all honesty, I’d rather bag my own groceries. It’s like playing Tetris only with fragile stuff, and years of working retail made me super quick at it.

    (No joke: Once I was at Costco with my mom, back when I was about 19, and after watching me load up all her boxes with stuff, the manager offered me a job on the spot.)

    Whatever manager came up with that is an ass. I’d rather get my eggs and bread home *not* in the bag under the 10-for$1 soup cans (which is what happened last time I had my groceries bagged) than get out of there 30 seconds sooner.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      10 cans of soup for $1 is a phenomenal deal, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

      • Etoiles says:

        *sigh* Once again, what I wouldn’t give for an Edit button…

        What can I say, it’s Friday, the fingers aren’t so good. ;) it’s a 10-for-$10 sale so the Progresso soups are $1 each.

      • jefeloco says:

        I’ve seen deals on canned “items” for that cheap but I will never, never buy canned corn smut from the canned food outlet…

      • Smultronstallet says:

        If you live in the Midwest, go to Schnucks! They have Campbell’s Select Harvest soups 10/$10 right now. I just bought quite a few of those.

    • Kitamura says:

      I don’t mind bagging my own groceries, but that’s only because I worked as a cashier for five year, I know how to pack stuff better than some of these seasonal employees, and I can do it faster.

    • lettucefactory says:

      I also prefer to bag my own groceries, because I’m good at it and I’ve got nothing else to do while standing at the register, anyway.

      But my first job was bagging groceries for Stop & Shop, and I’ll never forget the slightly deranged-looking woman who told me one day, when I reached for her stuff, “touch my groceries and I’ll break your fingers.” She was all wide-eyed about it, the woman clearly lived to bag her own stuff.

      I just don’t ever want to cross THAT line…

    • Antediluvian says:

      That’s why I always unload my carriage in order of bagging preference. Makes it easier for the baggers, and makes me happier.
      1. Heavy, bulking, solid things: canned goods, soda, etc.
      2. Square cartons: crackers, cereal
      3. Dairy & frozen
      4. Produce
      5. Squishy stuff: chips, bread, bakery items (eggs would go here too)

      • Etoiles says:

        Honestly, 98% of the time we’re shopping at the Giant that has the handheld scanners, so we’re bagging in our reusable bags as we shop. Much easier.

      • LadyTL says:

        I do that at my grocery store and they still bag them out of order and all messed up. I would do it myself but I go grocery shopping for larger amounts so by the time I get all my groceries up they have already started bagging.

  16. Gravitational Eddy says:

    Next week, they institute employee morale beatings, which will continue until morale improves.

  17. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    At my local walmart some cashiers have a fastest cashier list posted behind the cash – supposedly a motivational aid for their eyes only.

    • TerpBE says:

      My Walmart has huge signs right near the entrance for each cashier that has their name, IPH, and a number. I always assumed it had something to do with how fast they were. Now I know I was right: it’s “items per hour”.

  18. Cyclone says:

    Due to the lack of details regarding the store that enforces this practice, I have decided that I will no longer shop at any supermarket ever.

    Yea take that capitalism!

  19. aboxoflogic says:

    Well it sure as hell wasn’t Publix. :)

    • ahleeeshah says:

      It shocks me every time I go in to a Publix how nice every employee is. Every single one of them says hi to me as I pass and if I stand in an aisle for a long time they’ll ask if they can help me find something. They’re always ridiculously happy.

    • coldfire409 says:

      I don’t think Publix would ever do anything like that. Ever since I moved to Florida 10 years ago that’s the only grocery store I’ve ever shopped at.

  20. Shadowfire says:

    Most grocery stores have metrics in place that grade cashiers based on how quickly they scan (in our case, Items per Minute). Cashiers who consistently do poorly are disciplined and may lose their job. In this case, it sounds like the store is going overboard with the idea.

    (Manager at a grocery store, here)

    • gparlett says:

      There is a huge difference between saying ‘all cashiers should checkout 10 items per minute’ and saying ‘the slowest cashier will be fired’. One is setting a basic metric to gauge your employees. All companies are allowed to do this, all well managed companies actually do this. The other basically turns your local Grocery Store into Glengarry Glen Ross.

      • MrEvil says:

        I concur, there’s nothing wrong or unreasonable with setting a minimum standard for speed/accuracy. However, just saying that the slowest shall be canned is stupid for a multitude of reasons.

      • Shadowfire says:

        Agreed. That’s kinda what I was trying to get at there… ;-)

    • RvLeshrac says:

      And, of course, cashiers who consistently do well get… absolutely nothing. :/

  21. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    This story seriously needs a follow up and not just typical glib replies. Was some poor cashier really fired?

  22. MaytagRepairman says:

    You are supposed to fire the fastest cashier. It will strike fear into the rest of them that even the top performer is not immune to getting fired. What movie is that from?

  23. evnmorlo says:

    If they are going to lay some cashiers off is it really that bad to hold a competition?

    • ryber says:

      It is if your competition, by design, leads to damaged goods, low morale, and very visible signs of strain on what is likely to be the only human your customers interact with in the store.

  24. brinks says:

    Crappy jobs like these are now being taken by people who are in desperate need of something, not just the usual high school kids and bored retirees. Managers are taking advantage of this and trying to wring them for everything they’re worth. Employees know it’s this job or it’s nothing, so they’ll put up with way more crap than they should.

  25. CBenji says:

    I was trying to read the signs in the background to maybe figure out what store it is, but I can’t even make out what the word it says is. Very strange. Obviously this store has a poor idea of how to manage their employees. Apparently their idea is because the economy is in the crapper they can pick and choose their employees. I don’t see things getting much better for people, and big business is only going to try automate things as much as possible. What a future we have. I wonder if we have automated ourselves into the poor house?

    • JohnnyP says:

      Is it a photo that he took or is it a stock photo that was placed with the story?

      • JohnnyP says:

        Actually you will find that if you click the link below the image that it was taken in 2007
        This photo was taken on July 12, 2007.

      • Jasen says:

        All of the photos used in article headlines on this site appear to be stock. Hence why they seem to be so excited about their “Friday Flickr finds.”

    • Ben Popken says:

      The photo is illustrative – is not a picture of the store it happened at.

  26. javert says:

    It sounds like the Glen Glary Glen Ross Supermarket. As for the purchase of free-range eggs…really not important to the story but by inserting it, seems to so a high level of pretentiousness.

    • danmac says:

      I’ll just copy my post from earlier: I don’t believe that it was the OP’s intention to sound pretentious; he was merely pointing out the irony of trying to be a socially conscious shopper at a store where the workers are treated so poorly.

  27. Talisker says:

    I bet that manager just watched “Glengarry Glen Ross” for the first time.

  28. xamarshahx says:

    dumb article with no information…

  29. yospiff says:

    Interestingly, the fastest cashiers I know are at a salvage food store near me, where they don’t use scanners and most of the item prices are not marked on the package. With an overflowing shopping cart, I am normally through the line in about 5 minutes, even if someone is ahead of me.

    Encouraging cashiers to be fast is one thing, but threatening like this is just poor management. If the ultimate objective was to eliminate an extra employee, perhaps the decision should have been made without threats.If the purpose was to improve customer service and speed, they could have had a contest with a small reward for the fastest cashier.

    • borgia says:

      There are threats and there are warnings. Often there is an overlap. This could be one of those cases. They may have to fire someone, but decided to give the employees a warning. Consider it carefully, would you like to have a warning and a chance to work for a job, or a suprise firing?

  30. Bagumpity says:

    Next time, find bring ten of your best friends and have half of them load up their carts and the other half just put a couple items in a carry basket. Then find the speediest cashier and the slowest cashier (you could do this ahead of time). Put all the friends with the full carts in the speediest cashier’s line and hand him one item at a time. Count “one mississippi, two mississippi, three mississippe” between items, and make them take a good two minutes each to find and swipe their loyalty card, gift card, credit card and pay $2.50 in cash. The rest of your friends put their one or two (easily scanned) items on the conveyer belt of the slow cashier and have cash in hand.

    Nothing says “we hate your stupid policy” better than intentionally skewing the numbers.

    • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

      And what do you and your cohorts have against the poor checker–the fastest one at that–that you force them to lose their job just so that you can outass the manager?

  31. Ishmael Munson says:

    You all have made me feel like a jerk.

    I dread going to the grocery because of the painfully slow register folks that mumble, don’t make eye contact, are offended when you point out that they’ve swiped your gallon of milk three times and generally don’t care to be there. It’s even more painful when they are discussing their relationship issues with the bagger.
    I’ve accused PeaPod of intentionally seeding dominicks and jewel with idiots and jerks so as to create an even worse customer experience, thus sending them to PeaPod and other stores. I will use any excuse to avoid jewel or dominicks because of the experience.

    I think that the manager wanted to make the experience for his customers better and in trying to motivate his troops, he said he needed faster, when he really meant, better. Or maybe the troops just heard, “Faster with no regard for customers.” (which i can certainly believe)

    Heck, Jack Welch’s “fire the least productive 15% of your staff every year” plan guarantees a constantly improiving workforce. The bar is pretty low to be in the 85% at the grocery store.

    If they don’t’ do something to enhance the experience, (even if it’s just fixing the speed element) they will continue to lose customers.

  32. DerangedHermit says:

    If it wasn’t for the fact that often these photos have no real significance to the article, I’d guess Fairway.

  33. NoThankYou says:

    This article should be removed until a store name is printed. As a consumerist how am I to take action without all the facts?

  34. hirschic says:

    I’m with everyone else… which supermarket is it? Call them out for their stupid policy.

  35. drdom says:

    You do all of us a disservice by telling us the story without telling us the name of the store. What is your point. If you believed the story sufficiently to post it, you should tell the whole story. Otherwise, what purpose does it serve?

  36. Hoss says:

    Many of us pack our own stuff when we see there is no one at the end of the belt to pack for the cashier. That’s what a free range chicken would do!

  37. flbas says:

    i call bs. it would cost the company MORE to train a new employee and bring them up to speed. if they were truly looking at only IPM, then the trainer would keep his, but the overall store IPM of the store would be shifted because of the training.

    the other alternative would be to bring some new people on, and have an inflated head count so that they could transition the slowest workers out the door. but, this affects the overall IPM again, and now other budget factors (like inflated head count).

    and, who is to say that the checker is going to have a perfect IPM every day.

    the store isn’t foolish (i hope) and just picks a day to randomly fire someone. there is much more to the story.

    • Disappointed says:

      Having worked retail before, I believe this story could be true. The last two retail jobs I had, I received zero training whatsoever, even though I was expected to work the cash register. In this day and age, there is such a ridiculous surplus of people willing to do almost anything for a paycheck that, in many managers’ eyes, there is no need to “waste” the time training someone anymore. If the new employee doesn’t work out, you can give him the boot, and hire someone else almost immediately.

  38. central_ny_dude says:

    Ah, the good old IPM board. The company sets a goal, and those under the average are punished. Just like tracking bag usage. Goal set for items per bag. So, in other words, you get all your stuff crammed into the fewest bags, which guarantee they break open and your stuff falls out just before you get them into your car. Measuring cashier ability by IPMs and bag usage is unfair, and only part of the equation. If the cashier is fast, but rude, loud or condescending, is that good? What about the ones who take the time to pack carefully, pay attention to their customer, and present a good customer service image? Yeah, its just easier to measure IPMs than customer service, so they just use that. Can you tell I’ve been in retail way too long?

  39. Dixie Flatline says:

    So this is the old Royal Navy practice of flogging the last man off the yard, updated for the modern supermarket. Sounds like the spirit of Hugh Pigot is alive and well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hermione_%281782%29#cite_ref-Tracy294_3-1

    I hope this does cause a mutiny, although it’s unlikely to end with anyone hacked to pieces with cutlasses and tossed overboard. (Probably.)

  40. Kamt says:

    They do this at Target also. I used to cashier there, they keep track of how long it takes you to complete a transaction. What sucks about it though is that even if you rang everything up quickly, if a “guest” takes time to write a check or fumbles with the credit/debit machine, it counts against the cashier’s time. If you go there, after your transaction is completed, a big “G” or “R” comes up on the screen with a percentage underneath it. The “G” means the time was in the ‘green’ meaning they did it fast enough, the “R” means they were in the red, meaning the transaction took too long and counted against their daily percentage. Raises, etc. are partially based on these scores.

  41. pippenz says:

    Pretty LAME Ben, what a way to write a useless article. I am in agreement with my fellow consumerist. This article is pointless without naming the chain (i understand not naming the exact store city location, but come on, not even the chain?)

    Consumerist is making me sad lately.

    • twonewfs says:

      Yes, I agree. I find myself checking Consumerist less often, and then wondering why! this article, with its illustration from 2007, does seem just pulled out of someone’s ass.

      I used to love Consumerist – what’s up with the Consumerist metrics?

  42. UnicornMaster says:

    I’ve been to a few Walmarts and Krogers lately where this kind of management would be welcomed.

  43. DeepHurting says:

    Since when has customer service been about how to best service customers?
    It’s all about the metrics, baby!

  44. Rocket says:

    I bet this cashier could take on Vince Downey.

  45. sparkych says:

    this has happened to me many times at Costco. as you pass the employee lunch room you see the board where they report all the cashier’s number of items per minute. it is a textbook example of measuring the wrong thing. the more items the cashier scans in a minute, the less happy i am, and the less happy every customer is. coming home with tomato puree instead of fresh tomatoes is no picnic!

  46. treesareheavy says:

    I know the Whole Foods I work at does this. I don’t work as a cashier, but I know they have a list of IPM speeds, number of price checks, etc. for every cashier.

    There is a also a rule stating that if a customer asks you how you are doing, to always answer in the affirmative. The quote from the rule book is “customers have their own problems, they don’t want to hear about yours.”

  47. Gulliver says:

    I don;t know whether this is true or not, but Jack Welsh, the former CEO of GE had the mentality that the bottom 10% of the sales force should be replaced every year. I also know of a company that would fire people even after 10 ears of great sales performance if they did not hit the goals in year 11. This company fired a person who was not hitting their quotas after 9/11. The employee lost 20% of their business because of 9/11 and was fired within 6 months.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Pretty common in sales, even if not a standard policy. Most sales reps will tell you they are hired to be fired.

  48. Gulliver says:

    I wonder if they have a IPM rating for the 90 year old in the self checkout lane.

  49. durkzilla says:

    This is why I ALWAYS choose the self checkout lane.

    • borgia says:

      When you choose the self checkout lane you are just firing the baggers personally. If they aren’t needed they will be fired.

    • borgia says:

      In your case they are now competing with a customer and a machine for their jobs.

  50. borgia says:

    In almost all layoffs it is the lowest performers that get fired. The only difference here is that the workers have had forwarning of the metric by which they will be judged and have true control over their destiny. This is hard but that is the way all jobs work. This even gives a low performer who may know they will end up on the bottom more time to look for a job. Rather than a “suprise” layoff.

    • dolemite says:

      Problem is…someone always has to be the slowest. So even if everyone is within 1% of each other, the slowest person gets fired.

      • borgia says:

        Someone never gets into college, becomes a doctor, lawyer or movie star or makes the sports team. This is just elitism that makes unacceptable for this to happen to a bagger.

    • RandomHookup says:

      Except the metric may have nothing to do with overall performance. The fastest isn’t the same as “the best”. Performance should matter, but the performance shouldn’t just be about one thing.

  51. dolemite says:

    That’s…pretty amusing. “Here I am, making a very important decision about eggs that may save the planet, and yet these people are working very hard. I am going to hop in my Prius, drive right past Starbucks and blog about this on my iPad.”

    What you saw is what 90% of America is experiencing right now. A dude at work just got fired because he is the “slowest so-and-so”. Nevermind the fact he is only like 10% behind the rest of us, and everyone has their own style, etc…the company wants the fastest, so even though he’s been here like 2+ years…buh-bye. Every company wants the fastest person that will raise the least amount of resistance when forced to work 50-60 hours a week, while making the fewest mistakes.

  52. LastError says:

    Costco, the store beloved by many, not only tracks items per minute per cashier, they put the numbers on a giant wipe-off board on the wall where everyone can see it.

    There is no avoiding it, for customers or workers.

    I think that sucks. High IPM or not is not why I shop at Costco and as a customer I don’t care if the cashier is on the top of the list or not. Why Costco wastes time embarrassing their workers is beyond me. I thought Costco was supposed to care more about their employees than typical retailers. But apparently not all the time.

  53. nightmage61 says:

    Add me to the “What store was it folks” list. Without that info this story isn’t much good to anyone.

  54. borgia says:

    Think of it like this. The fates come down to you and tell you that unless you drive more carefully, you will die in a car crash in the next month. Is this unfair to give you control of your own destiny. Ask all the people that were laid off without warning if they would have liked this chance to keep their jobs and see what they would say. My wife would have liked this chance two years ago. This strikes me as socioeconomic snobbery. I think Steve thinks that they are just “baggers” so they shouldn’t have to compete. Unlike college students applying for colleges which exclude the lowest or doctors applying for residency. The hospitals don’t take the lowest ranked.

    • RandomHookup says:

      But do they just measure the surgeons on who can operate the fastest?

      • borgia says:

        If that was the main determinate on what kept the patient alive then, yes. In this case the speed of bagging is the main part of the activity they perform.

        • RandomHookup says:

          There’s a lot more to checking groceries than bagging/checking speed —- they are handling a variety of transactions {alcohol & tobacco age checks, selling stamps, selling lottery tickets, taking and confirming the veracity of coupons, providing basic customer service (did you find everything, answering questions about the products)}. They also need to balance a cash drawer.

          Measuring just by transaction time is lazy management. A good manager knows the best and worst cashiers by all measures and should know how to improve their performance. Most of the factors that drive speed are outside the control of the workers themselves. Read a little W. Edwards Deming to get some insight into management styles like the store in this post.

  55. saltyoak says:

    AMEN as a whipped on AMEN

  56. cheezfri says:

    Sounds like Super Club. And Dax Shepard is gonna win!

  57. physics2010 says:

    Well the IPM certainly explains why the cashiers are always logging in and out of their machines. I always thought it was so they wouldn’t forget and walk away while the till was still active. As far as an IPM calculation it should be based on first item until last item before payment. Not overall items divided by time logged in.

  58. Outrun1986 says:

    I am with everyone else, we need to know what store this is, or at least what chain it is and where it is. At the very minimum articles should tell the readers what state a problem store is in (aka I went to a best buy in MA and had a problem). For all I know this could be about a store in China where they have different working conditions than in the USA.

  59. HalOfBorg says:

    Real or not, good or bad (I think bad) – that’s the way it is in an employers market. Lots of people waiting in line for a job.

    MUSH DRONES or be replaced!!!

  60. esp13 has a pony named Steve says:

    This article should have been titled “A business did something to a person” followed by comments like “Why would a person use a business, they deserve what they got.”

  61. All Work and Low Pay says:

    This is likely BECAUSE it’s an “eco-friendly” store and product. All Natural products are a higher costs, and there is only two places those costs are pushed to, and that’s either the customer or the labor. If the consumer is unwilling to pay for the same product at the higher value, then the labor costs will be cut to recoup. If you are laid off it doesn’t save on labor, since the employee has to put money out via taxes. If you are fired for not being able to fulfill your job position (items per minute) then no unemployement, and costs have been effectively cut.

  62. CookiePuss says:

    She must be the cashier of the month with the fastest IPM posing with her prize of a dozen green bananas?

    That pic made me want to eat a bottle of anti-depressants. Maybe the Brangelina Adoption Agency can adopt her. :(

  63. raz-0 says:

    Wow this is stupid. Sure, if you need to lay off someone due to financials, that’s life with a real business. Getting rid of the lowest performing person makes sense.

    Setting an idiotic metric that results in an overall decrease in customer satisfaction is not the right way to go about it. Shoving the canned goods on top of the eggs as fast as possible while crushing my bread with the watermelon cause that’s what was closest might be fast, but it’s not GOOD.

  64. donovanr says:

    Name names. For the love of god name names.

  65. peebozi says:

    If it weren’t for the free market forces the cashiers would be wasting their time and their employers/shareholders profits!

    profit, profit, profit…if morals and ethics get in the way of maximum profits then a publicly traded corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to ignore any moral or ethical qualms it may face. FACT, thank you.

  66. mydailydrunk says:

    No name = didn’t happen.

  67. StrangeEmily says:

    *sigh* IPM’s… I remember those, I worked at an Office Supply Store once where we were trained to scan items without letting them touch the table, it had to go from hand to bag because that saved .8 seconds whatever that is. When that is your first retail job, getting out of that speedy habit that makes you look like an insane lunatic behind the register trying to race other cashiers is a pretty tough thing to break. Sadly I do the same thing at self check-outs when i’m shopping elsewhere… it weirds the employees out who watch me. : x

  68. emptyV says:

    Did he drop a “redistribute the wealth”?
    we know who this guy votes for…lol
    PS: what store is it?????????

  69. tastygroove says:

    Oh yeah, I remember when people used to bag my groceries! I moved to Germany 4 months ago, and here no one bags your groceries. The cashier scans your stuff through fast as lightning and you bag yourself. Some stores have a separate bagging area, so you just collect your groceries in a box at checkout and move them to the shelf away from the registers in order to bag more carefully. But I guess the Germans can only get away with this because people don’t buy that much when they shop and instead shop a few times a week.

  70. bruinsrule says:

    In other news, a credit card company has decided to sell the numbers in their database. Oh, and, “Tonight on Action News, a bomb is in the air and expected to land at 10. See which city, at 11.”

    Totally useless article.

  71. gman863 says:

    There are a lot of issues beyond a cashier’s control that can f–k up their Items Per Minute:

    * The customer who – only after the total is displayed – opens a purse the size of a 55-gallon drum and starts trying to find her money.

    * The same customer adding insult to injury by adding an additional two minutes trying to find loose coins so she gets an even dollar amount back as change.

    * Old-style paper WIC vouchers. Unlike debit card-based benefits, the cashier has to verify the correct quantity and dollar amount of the eligible items. I stood in line at Kroger one night for 15 minutes while this played out with the customer in front of me. (On top of everything else, the bitch drove away in an almost new Lexus! I drive a 9 year old Honda.)

    * Pricing errors. Anytime an item scans for more than the posted price there’s always at least a 5 minute wait for someone to verify the tag.

    Although the law of averages dictates these problems will be spread equally among all cashiers, sometimes one will draw the unlucky short straw for a few days in a row. Why fire a cashier over the actions of people who slow down the line for everyone?

    PS: Like others, I also nominate this story for the Golden Poo “Redacted” award. The whole point of reading The Consumerist is to learn the truth – not redact it.

  72. josh42042 says:

    perhaps consumerist can’t tell us the name of the place for some legal reason… but can you tell us why the supermarket’s name is redacted?

  73. DEVO says:

    Writer of article: YOU ARE A progressive and socio-economically conscious DOUCHE BAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, and it has nothing to do with how the store treats it’s clerks.

  74. jedifarfy says:

    I’ve heard about this from a variety of places, such as Wal-mart and Target. Most of the grocery stores around here are union and wouldn’t be able to fire based on speed, no matter what.

  75. sopmodm14 says:

    thats why i always make sure to recommend staff that goes beyond

    sure, nothing can be done if the price is what it is, or an item is out of stock, but if the worker tries their best they should get recognized, chances are, some stupid executive in a posh office makes up all these crazy rules w/o even setting foot in a store

  76. BytheSea says:

    Ther’es no point in this article if we don’t know which supermarket it was.

  77. Clyde Barrow says:

    Does this article really surprise anyone? American management is currently in the “I don’t give a shit” phase. This generation of management does not care what you think, how you think, and why you think; it’s all about greed.

    These employee’s are pushed by management, which in turn management is pushed by their managers, and the ladder runs up to the top because the number one big boss probably has a wife and four kids living off the backs of the employee’s and these same employee’s are busting their asses paying off the top guy’s new yacht, 5000 sq ft home, a beamer and the all the electronic gadgets given the to kids every Christmas. Of course, the wife is shopping and spending $5k a month on herself so that bill needs to be paid too.

    Just sayin.

  78. Torchwood says:

    It sounds like an MBA drank the “metrics is gospel” kool-aid, and forgot that there are other items to evaluate an employee on. It also sets up a conflict between the idea of “take the time to do the job right” with “try to get as much accomplished in a shift”. It ends up being a quality verses quantity conflict, and too many MBAs seem to be more interested in quantity over quality.

  79. czarrie says:

    Here’s the thing. You don’t tell everyone “we’re gonna fire the slowest cashier”. You just observe and see who’s doing the worst job — there might be a cashier slightly slower than the rest, but his or her customer service skills are superior than the 20-something who bags like lightning, but can’t seem to add up anything manually in his head.

    Sounds like management relying too much on their spreadsheets and not really doing their job…oh, wait, I think I just found the person they were looking for…

  80. Elphaba says:

    And this is why I don’t mind tipping the baggers at the on base commissary. I don’t have a problem tipping because they actually bag how I’d like it to be bagged, ie: perishables together, soaps and cleaners together, and my bread isn’t squished. They also load the heavy things on the bottom of my trunk and not on top of my bread. Cakes I buy also remain right side up, not on the side like has happened other places. I guess if they were crappy they just wouldn’t get any tips and they would quit.

  81. Sardis says:

    Hope they do fire the slowpoke. Too many people at entry level positions aren’t held to the fire like they should. These are the things one has to do if they want quality help.

  82. elkhart007 says:

    Back when I worked at Winn Dixie I was the fastest cashier in our store, the computer maxed out at 60 items a minute. Management encouraged the rest of us to try to speed up as they averaged like 10. When we used to be open til 12 the office would stop me at 11:30 and I couldn’t run again til they ran ‘end of day’ on the computer. Customers would start lining up and getting angry and I was just like don’t worry you’ll be out faster then you think. They were happy when they left. And in the 2 years I worked there I only broke a bottle of Caro syrup because I had to much backspin on it when it crossed my scanner. Needless to say I wasn’t usually on express lane duty, I smoked the big orders out the door.

  83. NashuaConsumerist says:

    Business names or it didn’t happen! When did this website fall down the slippery slide of “We won’t share the business name” I come here to find out which businesses I should be a patron of and which to avoid. Articles like this are NOT HELPFUL. How do we expect this grocery to change if we can’t shame them into change or at the very least decide with our money and shop elsewhere?

  84. woody189 says:

    I’m curious too, but boycotting the whole chain is senseless. It’s just one branch that were all being douches. I would boycott that store, but not the while chain. How can the company keep track of everything goin on in every store. I’m pretty sure if it were a chain, they wouldn’t allow it

  85. SynMonger says:

    And I bet you still bought those groceries.